Post Office

The government has introduced new legislation aimed at overturning convictions of hundreds of innocent subpostmasters wrongly convicted in the Post Office Scandal.

The Post Office Offences Bill hopes to quash convictions brought about by false Horizon evidence, clearing the names of many people who have had their lives ruined.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said that the new law “marks an important step forward” and that “we owe it to the victims of this scandal who have had their lives and livelihoods callously torn apart”.

Under the proposed Bill, convictions will be automatically quashed if they meet the following criteria:

  • Were prosecuted by the Post Office or Crown Prosecution Service (CPS).
  • Were for offences carried out in connection with Post Office business between 1996 and 2018.
  • Were for relevant offences such as theft, fraud and false accounting.
  • Were against sub-postmasters, their employees, officers, family members or direct employees of the Post Office working in a Post Office that used the Horizon system software.

According to the government, affected sub-postmasters will receive an interim payment with the option of immediately taking a fixed and final offer of £600,000, so that they can finally begin to rebuild their lives.

There will be an “enhanced” financial redress for postmasters who were not convicted, or part of legal action against the Post Office, but who still suffered considerably due to Horizon failures. They will be offered a fixed sum of £75,000 through the Horizon Shortfall Scheme. 

Those who have already settled for less money will have their redress topped up.

Postal Affairs Minister, Kevin Hollinrake MP, commented: “Postmasters have been fighting for justice for years, and I hope the introduction of today’s legislation is the light at the end of the tunnel they have been waiting for.”

The Horizon Compensation Advisory Board’s Chair, Professor Christopher Hodges, said: “The Government has taken rapid and decisive action to address the widespread injustice to which we drew attention in December. We also welcome the Government’s decision to take direct responsibility for delivering fair compensation to those whose convictions are overturned.”

Before receiving financial redress, sub-postmasters will be required to sign a legal statement vowing that they did not commit the crime for which they were originally convicted. Any person found to have signed a statement falsely in order to gain financial redress may be guilty of fraud.

The Bill will extend and apply to England and Wales with the government aiming to “have the scheme open for applications as soon as possible once the legislation has been passed”.

The government will continue to work closely with their counterparts in Scotland and Northern Ireland as they develop their own plans.